FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – After a 2-year pause in operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Central Valley Honor Flight is about to take off once again. The Honor Flight takes veterans from across the Central Valley to Washington D.C., to see the memorials constructed in their honor.

“We’re flying the most precious cargo: World War 2, Korean, Vietnam veterans back there,” explained the Central Valley Honor Flight’s Joe Fry.

The veterans who were supposed to go to Washington D.C. on Honor Flight 21 have been waiting to go since early 2020. They are now counting down the days until their departure on May 16th, 2022.

“Now is the correct time to go,” said Joe Fry. “The numbers are down, the CDC has taken some of the requirements of masking off, and of course, we got our blessing from the Honor Flight headquarters to go last year – we have delayed until May just to make sure that our veterans were 100% safe.”

Joe Fry is also the trip leader for Central Valley Honor Flight 21. In addition to the veterans on board, Honor Flight 21 will carry three nurses, a nurse practitioner, and a medical doctor. The oldest veteran on Honor Flight 21 is 100 years old; the average age of all the veterans is 82.

The two-year hiatus in operations has created new challenges for those organizing the trip. For example, Fry says many of their travel contacts have been replaced in that time.

“Our folks at Allegiant Airlines, the hotel staff, the bus drivers, everyone has changed. We have a whole new group of people. The director of the Fresno airport is new – so we basically have had to reinvent the wheel to get this flight 21 going because so many people have left.”

However, the pause in operations has not impacted the donation effort, which funds the program so that the veterans can visit Washington D.C. at no cost.

“The Central Valley donors have been awesome,” said Fry. “We still are getting our checks, many people have still been coming in, organizations have still been donating.”

In total, 66 veterans will be traveling to the East Coast on Central Valley Honor Flight 21. Among them are three veterans of the Second World War.